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Nigeria: Divided in Flesh, United in Spirit, by Hassan Gimba

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This article, first published in 2018, speaks to the ruckus kicked up in the polity by recent comments of prominent political and religious figures once again exposing our major fault lines as a country.
An outsider, especially foreigners and Nigerians in Diaspora, may be excused to think the bubble would burst any time soon and Nigeria would go to war with itself. They may well be forgiven for thinking so, especially if the social media is their only means of gauging what obtains in Nigeria.
In the Nigerian social media space, battles are fought 24/7. Politically, those who stand with President Muhammadu Buhari are at daggers drawn with those who think the apostle of “change” should be changed. Those who want Buhari to give way are also rooting for their various heroes. Muslims and Christians do not see eyeball to eyeball while at the same time contending with intra religious quarrels.
In that ‘war-front’, the three major ethnic groups are battling one another, and the minor tribes are fighting everyone. The citizenry sees the security agents as enemies; the security agents view everyone with suspicion. Even traders see their customers as awuf seekers; conversely, the customer takes the trader for a fleece.
Politicians see the electorate as one who seeks to take advantage of his sheepish following. Still, the ordinary man looks at the politician as one who has monopolised his rights. The husband views his wife as one who noses into his affairs; the wife suspects the husband of hiding things from her.
The Keke NAPEP driver is full of envy for his oga who “eats” from his sweat, unmindful of how the oga sweated to buy the Keke. The oga suspects his employee is keeping what should have come to him to buy the new cloth he saw on his back.
This mutual suspicion ranges from the harmless and hilarious to the most dangerous in which insults and curses are hurled back and forth, with the gods invited to release their wrath to deal with “enemies”.
Religious and tribal stereotyping to the outright request for Armageddon to fall on Nigeria is what one usually encounters on the social media.
There is a total lack of respect and decorum.
But do all these reflect what we, Nigerians, genuinely are, think or wish for one another? No, not all. We are among the most desirous of peace and development among the nations of the world. Most Nigerians are really miffed that we are where we are despite the abundance of human and natural resources the God of creation has blessed us with.
Nigerians know that many countries have taken, or borrowed our resources or copied our templates and are now miles ahead of us. Many of our sons and daughters have gone to foreign lands and excelled. For instance, the designer of many models of Ford vehicles we cruise in is a Nigerian. The developer of GSM’s 3G and 4G is a Nigerian from Fika, Yobe State. Nigerians have discovered or improved on theorems and theories in foreign lands. Nigerians have broken records in foreign schools and have achieved remarkable breakthroughs in medicine, engineering, architecture, sports, entertainment, name it.
Nigerians are proud of these beacons of light and hope, not minding their tribes or religions, but they at the same time, cry, “Why can’t we do it here?” While giving vent to their frustrations over the country’s seeming lack of direction, those with little control over their emotions can invariably descend to gutter language. For others, it is due to low intelligence. Such persons are not able to think up ideas that would bring solutions. For them, it has to be rofo rofo at the expense of truth.
However, by and large, Nigerians love each other and rejoice in happiness and sympathise with one another in sadness.
I was impressed by the volume of sincere, heart touching condolences that poured my way on social media when I lost my wife in March this year. Show of sympathy from both Christians and Muslims, a majority of whom were total strangers who I do not know.
When Chibok girls were kidnapped, even though politics and religion played a substantial role in its condemnation, Christians and southerners stood against it. I saw southern, Christian mothers crying and calling on the government of the day to do something about it. The other parts of Nigeria stood with the North East during the siege on it by Boko Haram. Again, due to politics, religion and regionalism, the North West is not receiving such concern. Even from the North East it (North West) “hated” the then ruling party for its travails.
Looked at deeply, issues of national pride, such as sports and academic achievements, unite us as one, while politics, religion and ethnicity are what push us to reach for each other’s jugular. As a nation, the challenge before us, especially our leaders who use them to promote their interests, is to divorce them from governance.
We need to understand that Nigeria is practising a system of governance that is neither Islamic nor Christian – in other words, secular. Having a Muslim or Christian as the president does not make the country Islamic or Christian. The reason why a Muslim leader does not begin minuting on a file with bismilLahir rahmanir Rahim just as a Christian president will not start with ‘In Jesus’ name’. Any favouritism based on religion or region is entirely due to the selfish interest of the leader who swore to govern without it.
Many a Muslim leader has enriched his Christian girlfriend, her family and friends while his fellow Maimuna is surviving through selling akara and groundnut by the roadside. Many Christian leaders have empowered their Muslim girlfriends, family, and friends while Cecilia is eking out a living by selling recharge cards and bread by the roadside. But when canvassing for votes that would confer on them the licence to dip their itchy fingers into the public till they wear their Abayas and Cassocks and run back to the gullible citizens who will kill in the name of false piety. Even our religious leaders have wormed themselves into the hearts of those in the corridors of power. They have swarmed all over our politicians due to the lure of lucre. If only Nigerians would see through them, the better for all.
People want their own in office, but this is because leaders, save for few, have always been partial, not abiding by their sworn declaration to serve without fear or favour. They give appointments and contracts to kith and kin in the guise of trust. A leader will shamelessly say he trusts certain tribes over others.
People always want “theirs” in office because leaders have become partial, not abiding by their sworn declaration to serve without fear or favour. Therefore with “theirs” in power, the right to state patronage becomes “theirs”.
The village of a leader is taken care of. It gets more than a reasonable share of appointments and projects are sited there. It more or less becomes the “doyen” of villages in the community.
If our leaders were to abide by the constitution governing the country, treat citizens as one, be fair to those who vote for or against them, not allow their governments to turn into a clan of family and friends and allow justice to take its course on anyone that contravenes the law of the land, the average Nigerian would clamour less to have his own in power.
When that is achieved, the intrinsic fellow feeling in us will show up and shine brightly.
Originally published in Blue Print, Monday, 25 January, 2021.

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Kenneth Kaunda, last of African patriarchs joined the ages @ 97

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The first president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, has died aged 97. He was the country’s founding father and ruled for 27 years from 1964 after it gained independence from Britain.

Kaunda’s death comes days after reports that he was admitted to Maina Soko military hospital in the capital, Lusaka, where he was treated for pneumonia from Monday.

One of the first generation of post-independence African leaders, Kenneth Kaunda led his vulnerable and landlocked nation through a perilous era in southern Africa. It was his most outstanding achievement that during his 27 years in power he maintained domestic stability in a comparatively benign manner while providing bases for the movements struggling against his far more powerful white neighbours in Rhodesia and South Africa. 

Kenneth David Kaunda (28 April 1924 – 17 June 2021), also known as KK, was Zambian President of Zambia from 1964 to 1991. Kaunda was the youngest of eight children born to an ordained Church of Scotland missionary and teacher, an immigrant from Malawi. He was at the forefront of the struggle for independence from British rule. Dissatisfied with Harry Nkumbula‘s leadership of the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress, he broke away and founded the Zambian African National Congress, later becoming the head of the United National Independence Party (UNIP). He was the first President of the independent Zambia. In 1973 following tribal and inter-party violence, all political parties except UNIP were banned through an amendment of the constitution after the signing of the Choma Declaration. At the same time, Kaunda oversaw the acquisition of majority stakes in key foreign-owned companies. The oil crisis of 1973 and a slump in export revenues put Zambia in a state of economic crisis. International pressure forced Kaunda to change the rules that had kept him in power. Multi-party elections took place in 1991, in which Frederick Chiluba, the leader of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, ousted Kaunda.

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Ex-MD of Bank PHB Atuche to spend 6 years behind bars for N25.7bn fraud

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Ex-MD of Bank PHB Atuche to spend 6 years behind bars for N25.7bn fraud 

An Ikeja High Court on Wednesday sentenced a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank) Francis Atuche to six years imprisonment for N25.7 billion fraud.

His co-defendant, Ugo Anyanwu, was also sentenced to four years imprisonment.

The duo was convicted in 21 of 27-count charges against them.

Atuche and Anyanwu were sentenced to six and four years on each of the 21 charges. The sentences will run concurrently.

Justice Lateefat Okunnu said the convicts must make restitution as contained in Count 4, noting that the amount stolen was not up to what was alleged in the charge.

The judge discharged and acquitted Atuche’s wife of charges of conspiracy and stealing.

She held that the EFCC failed to link her to the crime, adding that suspicion no matter how strong can not take the place of fact.

In convicting the duo of Atuche and Anyanwu, the judge upheld the arguments of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Kemi Pinheiro, who prosecuted the case with the fiat of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).

Pinheiro had opposed Atuche’s contention that the stolen funds in dispute were loaned, not stolen.

The judge agreed with the prosecution and held that the money belonged to the bank and that it was capable of being stolen.

Justice Okunnu convicted Atuche and Anyanwu on counts 1 to 11, 14-20, 23, 24 and 27.

“The first and third defendants did not debunk the evidence of the prosecution that the loans were used to purchase shares.

“They rather contended that the monies granted as loan could be used for whatever purposes,” she said.

In a judgement that lasted over 11 hours, Justice Okunnu held that the EFCC successful proved its case against the convicts beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge also held that the offences for which the convicts were charged can not be said to be mere professional negligence but criminal.

The court held that Atuche and Anyanwu abused their powers and ignored established rules and regulations, thereby putting the bank and depositors’ funds in danger.

The court held that the convicts corruptly took advantage of their positions to confer on themselves undue financial benefits without regard to the health of the bank.

The EFCC alleged that between November 2007 and April 2008, the convicts stole about N25.7bn belonging to the bank.

The defendants had pleaded not guilty.

Source: The Nation 

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State of the nation: Group insists on creation of Aba State

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. As Governor Uzodimma backs additional State for SE

Aba State Movement on Wednesday told the House of Representatives Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution which was held at the Concorde Hotel, Owerri, that the request for the creation of Aba State was a quest for equity based on history stretching more than 40 years.

This is even as the Governor of Imo State, Distinguished Senator Hope Uzodimma, called on the National Assembly to consider additional state for the Southeast.

Chief Theo Nkire, who presented the case for the proposed Aba State recalled that the House of Representatives passed a motion for a referendum on the creation of Aba, Abia, Ebonyi, and Enugu States from the then Anambra and Imo States in January 1982. In June 1983, the Senate passed the same motion on the creation of Aba, Abia, Ebonyi, and Enugu States from the then Anambra and Imo States. On the same day the National Assembly confirmed the four States and others for referendum.

“Of the four States the National Assembly confirmed for referendum by 1983 Aba State is the only one that has not been created from the South East,” he said, waving copies of the 39-year-old Hansard that reported the National Assembly’s decision.

Chief Nkire, first Attorney General of Abia State, said that most recently Aba State’s case was made by a Committee that Chief John Nnia Nwodo, immediate past President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, inaugurated on 11 September 2018, in his capacity as the President General of Ohanaeze. The Committee’s mandate was to evaluate requests for more States in the South East.

He noted that the conclusion of the Committee’s report to Governor Dave Umahi, Chairman, South East Governors’ Forum stated, “The Committee considered the merit for the creation of Aba and Adada State respectively, resolved and recommended for the creation of Aba State with 12 members supporting and 5 abstaining. The Committee also recommended that any other State Creation exercise in the South-East should give Adada State priority.” The report was dated 10 October 2018.

Aba State Movement, he said, stood by the report of the Ohanaeze Committee on State Creation. Chief Nwodo, who was Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide President General until January 2021, set up the Committee. “The Ohanaeze Committee, under Chief Nwodo’s presidency recommended the creation of Aba State,”

President Muhammadu Buhari had promised an Ohanaeze delegation Chief Nwodo led to Abuja in November 2017 an extra in the South East. Chief Nwodo inaugurated the 2018 Ohanaeze Committee. It was the process in realisation of an extra State in the South East as the President promised.

On his part, Governor Hope Uzodimma also called on the National Assembly to consider additional state for the Southeast, saying that Ndigbo want a constitutional that works for all Nigerians on the basis of equity, Justice and fairness.

He said: “As Nigerians we all want a country that will accommodate our legitimate desires. We don’t want secession. We want a country that will be driven by the spirit of equity, fairness and justice. We are in a democracy where questions of doubt are resolved through dialogue and not through violence or insurrection.

“The demand of our people is simple: we want a constitution that works for all of us. Our people want a constitution that devolves more powers to the federation unit. A constitution that gives vent to restructuring. The National Assembly should consider a sixth state for the Southeast. The sixth state will go a long way in this regard”.

On his part, the Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, said the review of the constitution is in fulfilment of the provision of the constitution and answer to the calls of Nigerians, to promote peace and unity. He assured: “From the National Assembly, we shall do all that you have asked us to do undiluted”.

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